Friday, December 26, 2008

Things I wish I'd known when I was 10 but that I only learned when I was 44

That you can substitute the words "Sorbolene cream" when singing "Glycerine Queen" by Suzi Quatro.

Monday, December 22, 2008

One more Filmworks before we go

In 2008 John Zorn released another three, yes three, additions to the Filmworks series. This puts me a little bit on the back foot given my recent rate of progress. Although I'm hardly in the same situation of Tom Ewing over on Popular, or Marcello Carlin on Then Play Long, working their way towards covering every UK number one single and album respectively, projects which require a fair amount of running just to stand still.

Anyway, "The Protocols of Zion" is number XV in Zorn's collected soundtrack work, and in its own way is as good a soundtrack album as you could wish for. It perhaps doesn't work as well as some others in the series as background listening on its own terms, but it is certainly evocative. Evocative of exactly what I'm not so sure, but I'm seeing parched brown landscapes, shimmering heat haze, and Arabs and Israelis lobbing things at each other. There is a lot of space between the notes, Zorn tinkles an electric piano to nice effect, and two percussionists really work on creating an atmosphere.

Actually, more so than with any other of the series so far, this one makes me want to see the film for which it was made. In that regard, it puts me in mind of Jonny Greenwood's amazing score for "Let There Be Blood", which is like no film music I have ever heard; in fact Greenwood's score is not always necessarily recognisable as music, but it does an extraordinary job of enhancing the visual element of that remarkable movie.

And for those who don't see John Zorn as a man with much of a sense of humour (the same mistake that many people make with Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen), note his cheeky use of the Jew's harp in a track called "Jew Watcher", which you can't help but listen to with a wry smile on your face. At least I can't.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Song of the day

"That's All For Anyone", by Fleetwood Mac. Of all the jaw-dropping moments on Fleetwood Mac's 1979 avant pop masterpiece "Tusk", none is more surprising, or more sublime, than "That's All For Anyone", buried as it is in the middle of the second of the double-album's four sides. There can be few moments in popular music more striking than this shimmering abstract-impressionist creation. What particularly stands out, in 2008, is the way it positively reeks (in a good way) of "Pet Sounds". My memory may be faulty, but I don't think anybody - and I mean anybody - was listening to "Pet Sounds" in 1979, and yet here were Fleetwood Mac, absorbing all of its many lessons and filtering them through into this song. And it's only one of twenty songs on the album. "Tusk". Is there anything it can't do?

Scientific research of the day

Aside from the fact that somebody should shoot the sub-editor responsible for the dreadful headline, this article demonstrates the importance of funding scientists to do what scientists do.

Presumably any self-respecting marine beastie would choose "Merry Christmas Everybody", by Slade. I will be very disappointed if that is not the case.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Song of the day

"How Soon Is Now?", by t.A.T.u.

Man, this operates on so many levels of greatness that I cannot even begin to enumerate them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hitchcock reference of the day

Crows learn to use vending machines. This just goes to show that I am not anthropomorphising when I see raw intelligence staring at me from those eyes. The birds! The birds!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Launch me into space

On the other hand, if I was going to put together a list of my favourite songs from 08, which again I'm not, top of the list by some distance would be "Happy House", by The Juan Maclean, which is 13 minutes of non-stop cheerfulness that you can also dance to. The house-music genre is, for me, the one that got away. Stuck in Leongatha, in days of old (before the internet), what could we possibly have known about it, busy as we were hunting down limited-edition seven-inch singles and home-made cassette recordings. (Sigh.) Hence the catch-cry from those days, "What the bleep is acid house?"

Which is to say, there is a lot of history in this record which I just don't understand. But there is also a lot to like regardless. The electric piano motif, which appears and disappears all too soon, is priceless. Likewise the arpeggiating something-or-other that kicks in at some point around the ten-minute mark and leads the song towards the exit door. The song's dynamic is perfect: it builds, it releases, it builds again, and so on. Thirteen minutes is over almost before it has begun. This was not a year in which everything DFA touched turned to gold. Its days as leader of the pack are probably behind it. Which, if anything, makes this instant classic all the more surprising. I thought I was waiting for the sequel to Black Leotard Front's sublime "Casual Friday". In fact, I was waiting for this.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two old guys hunched over their guitars

Old guy number one: Marc Ribot. Doing a song other old guys might recognise.

Old guy number two: Neil Young. Behind a lot of hair. On the BBC. In 1971. Long before he became an old guy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Song of the day

"Auntie's Lock/Infinitum", by Flying Lotus.

Young Marble Giants. Julee Cruise's ground-breaking work with Angelo Badalamenti. "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure" by Virginia Astley. If these be a part of your musical stock in trade, you might just be stopped in your tracks by this totally gorgeous piece of musical driftwood, washing up at the tail end of an album ("Los Angeles") that, as a whole, requires repeated listening to fully reveal its charms (I'm not quite there yet), and certainly doesn't lead you to expect that it will end like this. In other words, I have a feeling Marcello Carlin would have words to say about this track. I should also thank SF-J (yet again) for alerting me to a record I might not otherwise have pursued (although its being on Warp might just have nudged it into my field of vision).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Come home Go Home

It's the darnedest thing. Last night, for the first time in way too long, I spent a while yakking on the phone with my man Darren. Amongst the items for discussion was the seeming disappearance, based on seven long months of silence, of the mash-up king, Mark Vidler. And what to you know, waiting in my email in-box (and, presumably, in Darren's too) this morning was a Christmas update from the man himself, offering up another in his series of Christmas-themed mash-ups and with a promise of more goodies to come in the new year. I tell ya, there ought to be a university degree in coincidence-ology.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ask and you shall receive

Thanks, Jon.

(Background: I had mentioned to Jon that one of my musical blind spots was the Mekons. I have to say, the chosen song, "Ghosts of American Astronauts", is a long way from my uneducated idea of what the Mekons sound like (something kinda punk/country, if you must know), but, man, what a beautiful song. How did he know to choose that one ... or are they all like that? (Be still my beating heart.))

(Aside: Jon is moving to RMIT's architecture faculty, or the 21st century equivalent thereof. If any of Adrienne's old crew still have a foothold there, they should welcome him on his imminent arrival.)

Songs from Darren, number ten: "Miss You", by The Rolling Stones

Growing up, I struggled to place the Rolling Stones. I knew they did songs with rude words, which was pretty cool, and I knew they did songs like “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar”, which were easy to like. But how to explain “Miss You”? That piece I wrote a while ago about my brief dalliance with smoking? I’m pretty sure this song was a part of the soundtrack to that time. Weary’s brother Tony had some Stones albums: “Some Girls” in particular comes to mind. I had this sense that, unlike much of the music I was then “into” (e.g. Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Supertramp), the Rolling Stones were loose and unclean (one look at photos of Keef would surely have confirmed that), and there was a certain amount of excitement that went with that.

I was unable to categorise “Miss You”, which, although it was fairly obviously a Rolling Stones song, found itself firmly in the column marked “disco”. Which, I suppose, it was, or at least some idea of disco informed its basic template. It would have sat as comfortably on “Soul Train” as Bowie’s “Golden Years” or “Fame” did, for example. But for a long time I was confused: probably until it finally dawned on me that the Rolling Stones had become irrelevant, and that “Miss You” might have been the point in their career when they started to see the writing on the wall and vainly attempted to do something about it, artistically, before deciding it was better for all concerned if they just coasted instead, all the way to the bank.

What do I hear in 2008? “Miss You” as the perfect showcase for Charlie Watts’ no-frills, precision drumming. (We love Charlie Watts at our house.) Archetypal Keith Richards guitar (if a bit Pablo Cruise in one or two places). Fluid and slippery. Plus, how many disco songs do you know that include a bluesy harmonica solo?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Don't Look Back

If I was going to put together a list of my favourite albums of this year, which I'm not, it should be pretty obvious to all of you that "Third", by Portishead, would be so far ahead of anything else that it might as well occupy a list of its own. And I suspect I won't be as far out of step with the blogniscenti as I was last year with "Sky Blue Sky" (curse you, Wilco hataz, for being unable to listen to that record without dragging yr own baggage along with you). At least I hope not. "Third" is not so much a record as an event. It draws you into its welcoming but claustrophobic soundworld so completely that you cannot escape from it (not that you would want to) until the last note has run its course. The Cocteau Twins used to be capable of the same thing. And then "Loveless" came along and wrote its own rule book.

But in throwing out the year-end list-bathwater, it would be a shame in the process to lose sight of "The Monstrous Surplus" (oh boy, what an ironic title that turned out to be), by Pluramon, which actually works in a similar way to "Third". It may not have been as jaw-dropping in immediate effect, but it is a record to live with over a long period of time. Listening to it again this afternoon, I was struck by another similarity: it, too, is a strongly guitar-centric record within (loosely) a genre that is not known for its embrace of big and/or dirty guitars. There are bits if the record that I still don't "get", but it should only be listened to in its entirety so I'm sure the getting will come, sooner or later.

I have mentioned before how "Turn In", the first song, evokes (for me, anyway) the classic Dunedin sound. Another thing that chose to strike me today is that the second song, "Border", could almost be the work of The Church, not, I suspect, an obvious comparison: a comparison so tenuous, in fact, that it probably exists only in my imagination. If you only overlook one record this year, don't make it this one.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

YouTube of the day

Following on from yesterday's entry, here is some more dubstep for ya. Your tinny PC speakers won't do justice to the crucial low end, but a good pair of headphones might help with that. I'm not sure what the makers of the clip have against light globes. Mind you, they all look like they would use a lot of electricity, so maybe it's a statement about global warming. (It also looks stunning.)

Link, as is so often the case, courtesy the estimable (whatever that means) SF-J.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Song of the day

"Poison Dart", by The Bug. Newness in music is not something that comes along every day: I mean genuine newness, something where you can honestly say, "Man, where is this shit coming from?". If you haven't heard the form of music known (loosely: purists look away now) as dubstep, you should be prepared for a shock. It is music, Jim, but not as we know it.

"Poison Dart" is a kick to the head. Or the solar plexus. The bass disables your central nervous system. The rhythm, which has clear antecedents in seventies dub reggae, causes your thus disabled limbs to twitch pathetically as you attempt, in vain, to get yr groove on. The lyric, which contains that glorious word "bumberclaat", is the least of your worries.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Kelly Watch The Stars

Yesterday I toyed with the idea of posting Cortney Tidwell's "Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ewan Pearson's Objects In Space Remix)" as a Song of the Day. (It's actually one of my favourite songs of the year, even if it did come out in 2007.) But I ran out of time.

Then by sheer coincidence Adrienne dragged the boys and me out into the backyard last night to have a look at the night sky, which featured the crescent moon and two planets doing a convincing impersonation of a Smiley Face. It was an impressive sight. (We had to endure jokes from the boys about Uranus, but hey, they're ten and eight years old, what can you do?)

But don't take my word for it. Head over to Bob's Place to have a look at actual photographs. And while you're there, have a look around at some of the wonderful Australian music Bob is happy to share with you. (Bob is also your One Stop Shop for information relating to the forthcoming Laughing Clowns tour.) In fact, if he would only put up "Pitt Street Farmers" by The Reels, I would seriously consider asking him to marry me. If, like, we were living in some strange hybrid of Utah and Annie Proulx's Wyoming.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Plastic Passion

In an attempt to convince ourselves that things are back to normal (a misnomer, this, as the pieces can never be put back as they were; things will, as they always do, return to some kind of normalcy, but it will be a new normal), we visited the DVD store, fluffed up our beanbag chairs, resurrected Vinyl Class, and watched "Lars and the Real Girl". I must have misread the reviews of this, as my expectations weren't high. But in fact it is a wonderful little film, a quiet celebration of the ordinary.

I swear, though, that the day after watching it, when I wandered into the National Library cafe for my morning fix (coffee and the New Yorker), there standing against the opposite wall waiting for her take-away coffee was the living embodiment of Lars's artificial friend. The hair was exact. The face was exact. Everything, in fact, was in its right place. Except, obviously, in the bosom department; nobody in the real world has bosoms that sit quite the way Lars's plastic pal's do (which is probably a good thing; as Billy Connolly said in a different context, you could take somebody's eye out with those). I looked away and she was gone. Was she ever there at all?

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Death in the Family

It is necessary for us to go to Geelong for a few days to say our goodbyes to Adrienne's mother and to try to come to terms with the new reality.

Obviously, this is an unfillable hole, and there are, for now, more important things than sitting in front of a computer typing words about music.

But we will be back.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Song of the day

"M' Bifé Blues", by Amadou & Mariam. Do not listen to this song while driving. It has an underlying clicking sound that is maddeningly like the sound of your car's indicator. You will find yourself, every few seconds and against all rational thought, squinting at the dashboard to see whether the indicator has switched itself on. You will keep doing this until the song finishes. On the road to Canberra airport, which is presently loaded with enough hazards as it is, this is quite a dangerous thing to do. Curse you, Manu Chao.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Song of the day

"Machines", by Lothar and the Hand People. It comes from 1968. Not that you could tell by listening to it. It starts off like a latter-day Tom Waits song, with clanking percussion. It somehow morphs into the sort of herky-jerk you might associate with, say, the early scrabblings of the post-punk brigade. (I'm thinking of Snakefinger.) The singer at times comes across like Peter Garrett when he was a singer and not a politician. All of which is to say, you will have no idea what it sounds like until you hear it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Song of the day

"So Far Away", by Love Is All. This song, which I have heard several times to no great effect, has suddenly grabbed me. It might the the time of the day (late afternoon). The mood (melancholy, as always). Or the music itself. The Cat's Miaow-ness (and Marine Girls-ness) of the guitar. The fragility of the voice. The fleetingness of the whole endeavour. The unexpected stripping away of the godawfulness of the original song (by Dire Straits, and never was a band name more apt).

All of the above.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Song of the day

"Black Sweat", by Prince. Because, in the end, black sweat is what it took. But look what it achieved: the keys to the White House. (Are they gonna change the name of that place now?)

I suspect I'm not the only person outside of those United States to have gotten a bit emotional when the California votes came in and the numbers on the BBC web site crawled slowly, inexorably, and magically upwards until they hit the fabled 270. And then again, except more so, during Obama's victory speech. Being from the wrong hemisphere and not a watcher of television news programmes, I haven't heard much of Obama's speaking voice, but, man, he is a real orator, isn't he? In fact, I doubt that a speech anywhere near as powerful as his on election night has been delivered anywhere since, let's see, a few months before I was born. (Yes, it's the "K" word.) You were left with the feeling that America, and hence the world, is, for the time being, in good hands.

Whether, in eight (or four) years time, he will have turned out to be just another politician is a question that obviously can't be answered today. Nor should it even be asked. For now, the sun is coming up again.

(Probably now some fucker will assasssinate him, or he'll get inoperable cancer, or something. It just seems too good to be true.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Song of the day

"The Quiz", by Hello Saferide. "If I fall, would you pick me up?" We don't always need complexity in what we listen to. Sweden saves the day again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Song of the day

"Holy Dance", by Tetsu Inoue. Fifteen minutes of bliss. I haven't heard ambient music this "exciting" (a relative concept) since "Music for Airports" (which, as I think you already know, I rate as highly as I would rate any other record I have ever heard, of any genre, from any time). It has that record's ever so slight edge of veiled menace, while, also like that record, never taking anything away from its sterile beauty (listen, and you will realise that those two words are no zero-sum game).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hey, I just thought of something

"Emperor Tomato Ketchup".

"Imperial Wax Solvent".

Notice anything?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Song of the day

"Hang On To Your Love", by Sade. I fell in love with the album "Diamond Life" when it was first released, in 1984. It wasn't like anything else around at the time, and, as is so often the case, that difference was what made it interesting (I think a similar case can be made regarding the immediate impact of The Smiths, but maybe we won't go there). But three years is a long time when you are in your early twenties, and by 1987 I was on a diet of Sonic Youth, and Husker Du, and Einsturzende Neubauten, and Minutemen, and, well, to say that there was no room there for Sade it a slight understatement.

But now it's 2008, and she has come back into my life. I thought this would, like much of the music of the middle 1980s, sound horribly dated, but to my surprise it doesn't. "Timeless", well, perhaps not quite, but there's nothing that ties it to a particular moment in time. It goes down like the finest Scotch. Okay, now that my credibility is in tatters I will shut up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Song of the day

"Find My Ghost (Dntel Remix)", by Sally Shapiro. What the second remix CD of songs from Sally Shapiro's "Disco Romance" album lacks in big-name desk jockeys, it makes up for in the synth and drum-machine sounds of the early 1980s. And that is never a bad thing. SSL and Alexander Robotnick are channelling New Order. The Russian Futurists convert "I'll Be By Your Side" into a Magnetic Fields song (I'm not so sure about this, but then whenever I hear the original my heart melts, and I'm not sure there is any way to improve on that). Dntel go in a slightly different direction. It sounds of a piece with what little Dntel I have heard, but I like all of that, and I like this too. You get skittery, defocussed drum sounds, some nice dub inflections, heavily FXed vocals (some of which remind me strongly of something that just won't come to me - unless it's lurking in some obscure corner of "Hounds of Love", perhaps) and, in keeping with the eighties theme, some ever so slightly off analog synths that make me think of pre-"Dare" Human League.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Song of the day

"Another Knife In My Back", by One-Two-Three. Influences run back and forth: ABC's "Poison Arrow" draws on many sources, soul music and, more generally, the dance floor among them. The person who made "Another Knife In My Back" (viz, Bobby Orlando) must have listened to "Poison Arrow" at some point in its creation (the similarities are too strong to be coincidence). And in turn, this is the music, if not the specific song, that New Order must have been filtering when they wrote "Blue Monday" and, especially, "Confusion". Others with knowledge might be able to connect specific dots. I am only telling what I hear. New York. 1983.

[postscript: the more I look the more I find - firstly, it may or may not be a fact that New Order brought legal action against Orlando for supposedly borrowing the bass line from "Blue Monday" for a song he did with Divine, "Love Reaction" (also released in 1983); secondly, Jellybean Benitez mixed both "Confusion" and "Another Knife In My Back" - so I'm not just hearing things]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Statistical quirk of the day

I suspect that this piece may be playing fast and loose with the facts, but the idea of AC/DC as economic barometer is, well, curious.

I see it, but I don't believe it

Sitting in the fridge, at work, is a "tube" of Vegemite - that is, something that looks like a toothpaste tube and bearing the distinctive yellow-and-red colouring we have come to know and love. As someone who does not regularly frequent supermarkets, watch commercial television or peruse junk mail (JB Hi-Fi catalogues excepted) I must say that I was stunned to see this. Vegemite comes in glass jars. That's what it is and what it does. The glass jar and metal lid can be recycled. The minuscule amounts of Vegemite the purists recommend can be dispensed with precision by way of the end of a knife, and have been for countless (well, a few anyway) generations. Crikey. How many of our best scientific minds went into this Technological Innovation - which allows for any amount of wastage of the product (how do you stuff excess Vegemite back into the little hole?) and alleviates the pressure on bursting recycling bins by coming in non-recyclable plastic? What is wrong with a glass jar and a metal lid, I ask you. I must be getting old.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Song of the day

"Used To Be", by Beach House. A virtual seven-inch single appears as if from out of nowhere. It has a virtual "A" side, a virtual "B" side, and a virtual picture sleeve. (It cost actual money.)

I like that music no longer sees itself as limited, as was the case in the period between the demise of the vinyl single and the rise of the blog, to the dull and stifling cycle of the long-playing compact disc. Beach House have written a (in fact, yet another) fantastic song. Why should we, and for that matter they, have to wait for months to be able to hear and/or buy it?

Bonus: if you go here, you can watch them performing the very same song, live, surrounded by rocky Sydney coastline, using just voice, acoustic guitar, foot on bucket, and tambourine.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Filmworks: The Story Continues

Moving right along, we find ourselves listening, and listening, and listening, to John Zorn's "Filmworks XIV: Hiding and Seeking". I think I may have raised suspicions that by Volume XIII we were forming the view that the best of the Filmworks series was now behind us. Well, that (tentative) view has been well and truly scotched. This is an absolute cracker of a record. It needs no movie to go with it. It is a model of understated simplicity. Marc Ribot further cements his reputation as a genuine Guitar God. The mood is Iberian: from the cheeky flamenco handclaps that turn up at one point, to some stark, evocative Spanish guitar. (Remember the episode of "Thunderbirds" where Alan, having become a famous racing car driver, gets kidnapped and left stranded on a bridge which has been rigged up with a motion sensor device so sensitive that if he so much as takes one tiny step the whole thing will blow up, taking Alan with it? Well, maybe John Zorn does, too: the music here is very reminiscent of the music there.) And with the infusion of the music of the Gypsies into this kind of music, it is easy to see how Zorn might have got from Masada to here.

There is a good serving of vibraphone, which, as you know, we always like. And Zorn also uses the human voice, something that doesn't get much of a run in his work, except at the further-out end of the spectrum, viz., Diamanda Galas on "The Big Gundown" and Mike Patton on the three (with a fourth on the way, which also is going to feature Ribot; oh happy day) "Moonchild" albums. But this time the voice is floating gently down from heaven. (On further reflection, and this is from no position of knowledge whatsoever, it strikes me that another possible influence on this record may be the 1970s airbrushed soundtrack albums made by the likes of Francis Lai. I think I'm getting that from the voice, but I can't really say why.) Percussion and upright bass anchor the music, but rarely intrude.

Aside from a few brief minutes towards the end where things get just a little bit gnarly, it's hard to see how anybody could object to this music. On a blind listen Adrienne loved it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Home cinema

Some people have enormous televisions coupled with quintillion-speaker "surround sound" systems, with which they can watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters immediately they are out on DVD (if not sooner). We are not those people. Thus, our intention last night, having booked a babysitter, was to go to an actual cinema and watch an actual movie ("Wall-E", thank you for asking, although why two adults would be leaving the children behind to go to see a "children's" movie is a question perhaps best not asked).

Our plans were thwarted on account of the ten-year-old, at the end of the first unequivocally great school day he has had in several weeks, if not months, somehow managed to trip over his own feet and knock considerable chunks off both of his front teeth. A length of time at the dentist's, and concomitant delay and frustration, put paid to our night out.

So, instead, we rented John Waters' "Hairspray" (the one with Divine, not the one with John Travolta) and, after the kids had retired for the night and we were sufficiently over the nerve-jangling trauma of the late afternoon (there is no traumatic like parental traumatic), we threw a few beanbag chairs on the floor in front of the telly, augmented those with some couch cushions, and hit "play". It was our own private cinema. We called it "Vinyl Class". For a brief time it became "Crap Class", but "Vinyl Class", it seemed to us, was a better fit, and was, we felt, more "Stan and Adrienne".

The Wind From Nowhere

An impenetrable wall of wind sprang up in Canberra about 8.30 this morning and hasn't let up since. This, my scared and perhaps fevered mind tells me, is the future of weather on this planet, and I don't like it. In fact, it, like, totally freaks me out. Clearly, I read too many J G Ballard "novels" (many so prescient they might better be termed "premature histories") as an impressionable teenager.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Photo gallery of the day

This is possibly be best website I have seen all day. The name says it all really: The Brokers With Hands On Their Faces Blog. You have seen most of these photos before, but the cumulative effect is actually, surprisingly, quite powerful.

(Link is from James Surowiecki's new blog for the New Yorker: I was hoping this fellow would do a blog, what he writes in the magazine is always worth reading. Catch him while he is in the typical New Blogger Frenzy. He will run out of steam soon. They all do.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Song of the day

"It's All Right With Me", by Tom Waits. Tom Waits does Cole Porter in this possibly lesser-known Waits cast-off, taken from what I think was the first of the "Red Hot" series of AIDS benefit discs (of which I actually purchased one, "Red Hot + Rio", in (ahem) Milan, in 1996). Its sound is reminiscent of that on Waits' own "Frank's Wild Years" album, which, given the dates involved, is probably about right. Always remember that, as with Dylan, it's the songs that Tom Waits rejects that make Tom Waits the best. Or something like that.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Darren Hit Parade - Part Nine

It lies somewhere between The Beatles and The Traveling Wilburys, so it must be George Harrison. And it is! "All Those Years Ago", to be precise. George was responsible for many of my favourite Beatles songs, and yet his solo career is, to me, an embarrassing black hole. It is a bit like loving the first two volumes of "Lord of the Rings" but never getting around to reading the third. Paul had all the hits. John had all the fame. Ringo became the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine (I haven't heard Ringo's solo records either). George just quietly kept on doing his thing, and like a fool I wasn't listening.

But this was, perhaps, his own fault: releasing a triple album as his first post-Beatles record raised the bar way too high, and after that there was no way for me to get a handle on George Harrison Solo. So I really don't have too much to say about this song, listening to it, as I am, in a vacuum only really intruded upon by faint memories of "My Sweet Lord". Of course, "All Those Years Ago" is a lovely song. It may not set the world on fire (those synths stick out like sore thumbs) but it also doesn't make me feel any better about having ignored him for so long. The first 25 seconds are the best; that is the period in which your brain says "Beatles!" "George!" And you smile.

Things Change

I am currently reading the August 25th issue of the New Yorker. That's, like, less than two months ago, right? There is an ad on the back cover. This is a part of what it says:

"Deciding where to invest your retirement savings can be pretty stressful. Put your mind at ease. With the AIG companies, you're tapping into more than 85 years of wisdom and expertise that can help make your retirement savings last."

And there you have it, a small piece of history, a snapshot of the world mere milliseconds before things fell apart. AIG? It now has squillions of dollars of public money from the United States government to prop it up. It may even have been a little bit naughty. All will, most likely, be revealed in due course.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Song of the day

"Before Hollywood", by The Go-Betweens. I think it can credibly be argued that The Go-Betweens never made a better album than the one that shares its title with this song [so that would be "Before Hollywood" then? - ed]. Sure, they got "better" than this, in the sense of developing a greater proficiency in their craft, but this album captures a band in the full flush of literate post-youth, oozing confidence, and with the world at their feet, and before the intrusion of the bizarre love quadrangles and other psychodramas that added a level of tension and underlying complexity to what came later. Much as had happened only a couple of years or so earlier in the case of another fine group of pop musicians from another, colder, country. Ha. The Go-Betweens and ABBA. Why had I not made that connection before?

Anyway, "Before Hollywood" (the song). I could have chosen any song from the album (and, as you know, will always choose "Cattle and Cain") but this is the one that came up on the iPod while I was out enjoying the lunchtime sunshine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Song of the day

"The Low Murderer Is Out At Night", by Low Motion Disco. One assumes that Low Motion Disco are the latest graduates from the School of Blatant Retroism, which previously brought you Studio, A Mountain of One, Dungen and Map of Africa. But even in that context, this is pretty darn convincing. It drifts along for a while in a B*l**r*c haze, before turning into something that Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac might have been proud of. So ignore the who and the where, and just enjoy the what. (Warning: drugs may have been involved in the making of this record.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Song of the day

"Drain Cosmetics", by Serena-Maneesh. Being the first song on S-M's 2005 debut self-titled album, and being also an adrenalin rush of the best kind. S-M are clearly enough working to a template, but it's a fine and time-honoured template that, in the right hands (as it is here), can produce startling results. What they are doing is playing at the numerous edges of the melody-vs-noise spectrum. Precursors are The Jesus And Mary Chain, Spacemen 3 (never more directly than on this track), My Bloody Valentine (ditto), Husker Du (often overlooked in this context, and I could never understand why, unless it's the naff production that their best records struggled to emerge from), Band of Susans (hands up if you remember Band of Susans) and Sonic Youth. You can name others. The point being that this is a big, beautiful album, one that you can lose yourself in over many listens. And it's from Norway, which may be the first time I have used those words on this blog.

"I'm looking for things that make chords sound good"

Go here to watch the first part of a Pitchfork interview with Laetitia and Tim from Stereolab. Go on. You know you want to.

(Note in particular Laetitia's interesting choice of disc for someone just starting to investigate the 'Lab's catalogue.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Song of the day

"Money", by The Flying Lizards. (What else?)

On Friday afternoon I suggested to Adrienne that she pull a couple of hundred dollars out of the bank "just to be on the safe side". Well, the previous couple of days had seen global financial madness on, I suspect, an unprecedented scale, and with an entire weekend for all kinds of monetary sores to fester and, perhaps, erupt (sorry), it seemed to me about the only form of insurance we could take out. We also paid all outstanding moneys on our credit card, and so for a wondrous period of about 15 hours we were Debt Free.

I know (and knew) that I was being ridiculous (what, we were going to Rule The World on two hundred dollars in cash?), and that it was totally unnecessary. But so was what Kevin Rudd did yesterday afternoon in guaranteeing Australian bank deposits. So I figure that Kevin and I are about even now.

And speaking of things spiralling out of control, we sat down with the boys to watch "Mousehunt" yesterday. That is a completely insane, but oddly compelling, film. The mouse is clearly the star of the show, but it also features Nathan Lane, best known to me as the voice of the Littles' cat in the "Stuart Little" films; and Lee Evans, who was great in Peter Chelsom's underrated "Funny Bones" and who we don't get to see enough of these days. (I was going to say of Peter Chelsom "Where is he now?" but OMG he's directing "Hannah Montana: The Movie". Oh well.)

Falling Man

Now I feel even more stupid than usual.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Song of the day

"Fledermaus Can't Get It", by Von Südenfed.

On the one hand, this song demonstrates, if proof were needed, the undiminished charismatic POWER of Mark E Smith.

On the other hand, it sounds like somebody's uncle, blind drunk, wandered into a huge warehouse dance party (do they still have those?), took over the microphone, and started ranting about things of which only he was aware, and everyone was too polite to do anything other than pretend, uncomfortably, that he wasn't there at all.

Which, of course, may be exactly what happened.

Wall Street Village Day

We like our ironies delicious, and they don't come much tastier than the distinct possibility that George W Bush will be remembered as the President who presided over the nationalisation of America's banks.

As this crisis continues, the speeches and "comments from spokespersons" coming out of the White House convey only the impression of a very uncomfortable man who just wishes it were January so that he could get the fuck out of there. There are still three months to go, Georgie boy. Squirm on.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ooh look! Dorothy sweared!

I have been listening to the most recent New Yorker "Campaign Trail" podcast. Dorothy Wickenden, whom I have become rather fond of during this otherwise interminable US election campaign, quotes Chris Rock as having said: "George Bush has fucked up so bad he has made it hard for a white man to run for president."

I hope he actually did say that; it's rather good. I also hope he's right (and that he was thinking about one white man in particular).

Time Passages

In 2008, your iPod can take you straight from "Promises", by Buzzcocks, to "Go Your Own Way", by Fleetwood Mac, without you even batting an eye. Whereas back when they were both new, the gulf between them was wider than the Atlantic Ocean. What's with that?

Random Walk

It is, perhaps, appropriate that, in the middle of this strange but compelling exercise in global financial mayhem, the next song to struggle up to the surface of Darren's Pile of Songs is by a group called the Rogue Traders. The song is called "Way To Go". It has the heaviest guitars I think I have ever heard in a pop song. It's a bit like listening to the Stooges mashed up with, I don't know, let's say Girls Aloud. (In fact, the Soulwax people once did a similar thing to startling effect, squashing "No Fun" into Salt'n'Pepa's "Push It". Or perhaps it was the other way around.) Come to think of it, this song does remind me of "Push It", for reasons I can't quite put a finger on. It also borrows, rather well, from New Order's "Blue Monday". And there's a hint of Cheap Trick synth in there as well. In other words, what's not to like?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Song of the day

"Pensive Aphrodite", by Harold Budd and Clive Wright. Some people I know regard listening to Harold Budd as roughly as exciting as watching concrete set. They may have a point as a statement of fact, given that his music doesn't actually "do very much", but aesthetically they couldn't be more wrong. Budd works with mood. It is not fair to lump him in with purveyors of "New Age" music, because he strikes very strong emotional chords in his music, and not always comforting or "nice".

He also, for the most part, works in pieces of short duration, around the five or six minute mark, and this perhaps doesn't always play to his strengths. Ten or a dozen similar-sounding tracks over the length of a CD isn't necessarily going to make him a lot of new friends. But occasionally, as on the title track of "Lovely Thunder", and now with this brand new track (thank you eMusic for allowing me to download the new album, "A Song For Lost Blossoms", before it physically existed; I believe that happens today), he really stretches things out: here, to a length of somewhere over half an hour, and this compounds pleasure upon pleasure. This is music that drifts, and drifts, and then keeps on drifting. In Clive Wright (about whom I know nothing) he seems to have found another excellent foil. Wright adds the kind of atmospherics that Eno used to give to him, but with guitar (albeit drenched in FX much of the time). The ghost of Frippertronics hovers just outside of the frame. "Pensive Aphrodite" is perfect for late-night listening. If only we had a fireplace.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Great Depression

My parents were born in the 1920s. They were children during the Great Depression* of the 1930s. Hence, I have lived my life in the shadow of those dark times. So the present crisis feels strangely comfortable. Not in the sense of It Feels Good, but in the sense of I Recognise This.

It was interesting to overhear a couple of youngsters in the National Library's cafe a few mornings ago, talking about how people of their generation have never seen anything like a depression, and that they didn't know how they were all going to cope. It's a good question. Looking back at the degree of self-sufficiency that my dad and his brothers were capable of, it is quite amazing what skills have been lost in the space of a couple of generations. Heck, I have it on good authority that there are people out there who don't even know how to cook, let alone how to grow some basic produce, darn socks, patch trousers, and all the many other things that come with not having any money.

But might there be a silver lining to an absolute economic meltdown? You would almost have to be the kind of person who believes things happen for a reason (unlike, say, me, who believes only in the utterly meaningless randomness of existence) to think along these lines, but this is how it would go:

1. All the money evaporates (if it hasn't already). Bosses can't pay their bills or their workers. Everybody gets laid off. Machinery shuts down. People have no money for petrol. Planes stop flying. Nobody buys anything. Result: nobody makes anything.

2. The positive spin-off of this is that consumption of fossil fuels dramatically falls, more so than it would have under any scheme (national or international) that would have had any scope of succeeding.

3. Climate scientists pinch themselves, then realise that global warming projections can be revised, for once, in a favourable direction.

4. In a bid to get the wheels of industry turning once more, governments the world over engage in a co-ordinated New Deal type of arrangement, whereby huge sums of government money are ploughed into alternative energy schemes and energy-efficient infrastructure developments. So that when those wheels start whizzing around again at full speed (as they inevitably will), they will be spinning on green technology.

Like I said, you would have to be crazy to believe in something like that. But sometimes, as they say, being crazy helps.

*And just because it was called the "Great Depression" doesn't mean that it was a one-of-a-kind event, never to be repeated. What we know as the First World War was known, until the next one broke out, as the "Great War", or the "World War". It wasn't, as far as I can see, until a couple of years into World War II that the New Yorker, which we trust in most things, started calling the earlier one the "first World War", and then with the word "first" in a somewhat hesitant or provisional lower case. So, by the time we work through the present crisis, who knows, the Great Depression might have been renamed the Little Dip.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Song of the day

"Boom Shacka Laka", by Hopeton Lewis & The Chosen Few. (Also known as Track Six on Disc One of "Don Letts Presents... The Mighty Trojan Sound".)

And don't the kids just love it.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

After The News

It's kind of reassuring how quickly things get back to normal. Within hours after the US Congress passed the $700 billion financial-crisis package, the leading story on the BBC News website was about O J Simpson.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Little Man

Like us, you have probably been wondering what Chester Brown, comic book artist, has been up to.

Well, aside from running for the Canadian Parliament (fact!), Chester has been doing some zombie posters to promote the arts in Toronto, which can be viewed here.

Now, if he would only get back to doing those bible stories ...

(links courtesy drawn & quarterly, and speaking of whom, this is waiting for us to pick it up; oh happy days)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bye Bye Baby

George W Bush has been a bad President. A bad, bad President. Exactly how bad is clearly enunciated in this lengthy editorial by "The Editors" of the New Yorker magazine, the mere existence of which, let alone its content, indicates how seriously we should all be taking this moment in history. (Once again, it seems clear to me that it should be everyone who doesn't live in America who should be choosing the American President.)

Leaving aside domestic issues (although some of those are also relevant to the rest of us: witness the fallout from the Wall Street financial crisis, a crisis that happened purely and simply because it was allowed to happen), here is my little list of what was wrong with the Bush Jr Years.

Iraq. Someone flies aeroplanes into landmark US buildings and the Administration responds by invading Iraq. It was like saying, These guys over here did this terrible act; therefore I'm going to beat up that guy over there.

Torture. A clear message has been sent to dubious rulers everywhere that when it comes to torture and other breaches of human rights, the ends justify the means so just shut up okay?

International institutions. Just how important did Bush Jr consider such important global forums as the United Nations to be? Take a bow, John Bolton.

Environment. And finally. And finally. As the world in the past eight years has come to recognise what a mess we have been making of our planet, and what is required to be done to clean up that mess, and how urgently, the Bush Jr people have applied themselves with all the resources at their disposal to Shut The Scientists Up and to pretend that it isn't happening, and if it is happening it's nothing to do with us, and anyway if it does happen America will be better placed to survive it than anyone else so it's all a Win Win really so bring it on.

Thanks for listening. This has been another Farmer In The City Community Service Announcement.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

YouTube of the day

Look, ma, it's a new song by Grace Jones. Yes, Grace has returned, and she's ready to scare the pants off a new generation of adolescent males.

The song itself sounds not unlike Massive Attack circa "Mezzanine", which is no bad thing.

Song of the day

"Sugarcube", by Yo La Tengo. The good thing about delving back into the Yo La Tengo archives is that you get to remember songs like "Sugarcube", a song which, in a fairer and better world, would have been a huge summer breakout hit. Except it never would have been, because, y'know, it's Yo La Tengo, and they're never gonna have a huge summer breakout hit in a million years. Although that doesn't explain why not. It just isn't. Going to. Happen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

White Noise

If you felt that you had to read somebody's observations on the US presidential campaign, it might as well be Don DeLillo, "Master of Postmodern Literature" (it says there).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Song of the day

"Where Do You Run To", by Vivian Girls. This sounds like a girl group (sixties or twee-pop, take your pick) backed by Joy Division. An unusual combination of influences, perhaps, but I can't even begin to describe how much I love this song. I was put off Vivian Girls by their name: an indirect reference to Henry Darger, an "outsider artist" of the type once championed in august journals such as the otherwise impeccable Chemical Imbalance. Outsider artists are a concept I have some ethical/moral problems with (musicians too, viz. the cult of Daniel Johnston). I can't help detecting a hint of patronising on the part of the champions of these poor wretches who wouldn't be making this "art" (or being subjected to at least the possibility of involuntary exposure and/or exploitation) if they could keep their own lives under some degree of control. Okay, it's a difficult issue, and I don't want to start any arguments. (And a comparison of the fates of Robert Crumb and his two brothers either supports or undercuts my own thinking, depending on where you happen, or choose, to view it from.) And maybe it is my problem. It certainly would have been my loss if I had allowed my own hang-ups to stop me from stumbling upon this fine song.

Monday, September 29, 2008

That's Entertainment

Did you watch the game on Saturday? We had friends up from Melbourne to watch it with us, so it was almost Just Like Old Times. The best piece of commentary came from our very own eight-year-old commentator. At one point during that tense and intense second quarter, when the game went for, what was it, 19 minutes without anybody scoring, the ball was rapidly passed through what might have been a dozen pairs of hands, with nobody able to get a proper kick or handball away, and our commentator was driven to cry out "OH, THIS IS SO ENTERTAINING!!!".

He was right, but he also demonstrated a level of subtlety in his understanding of the game which one might not expect from an eight-year-old, particularly one not born in Victoria and hence not a "native" of the game. The play in that second quarter was tremendously exciting, but in a dour-struggle kind of way, rather than with the fast pace, long kicks, spectacular marks and high scoring that the kids love.

And he was barracking for Hawthorn, so he was also pretty stoked with the way the game ended up. Unlike this person.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Song of the day

"Just Step Sideways", by The Fall. Or, as the cover scrawl suggests, "Just Step S'ways". The Fall, at the time of "Hex Enduction Hour", were probably the greatest rock band ever. This song is an absolute stomper. Listen to the two drum kits, and the purposefulness of the bass. And smile. They played Melbourne in 1982. I didn't go (what is wrong with me?) but did listen to the Live To Air (which you can now buy).

And now you can listen to a remastered version of "Hex Enduction Hour", which sounds like it was recorded from three doors away rather than from the next suburb. Everything is relative.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Song of the day

"Zueri (Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas Nordic Flavour Mix)", by Tosca. Tosca is either Kruder or Dorfmeister, I forget which. Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas you know (or should). This falls within the category "How many 'O's in Smooooooth?", a category defined back in the dim and distant past, if I recall correctly, by our lost friend Eldo.

Eldo, where are you?

YouTube of the day

Watch Alice Cooper hamming it up with the Muppets. Then watch it again, but with your eyes closed, and imagine that you are listening to the dulcet tones of Dave Graney. It's all there, from the heartfelt croon to the little vocal mannerisms, you know the ones, when he goes "Wo-ohoho", "Yeaheheheah", or just plain old "Yeah". Dave, you have been outed. We thought you woz you, but all along you woz channelling Alice Cooper. Which is kinda creepy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Greatest living novelist? Not any more he's not.

Sometimes a writer doesn't get the recognition he deserves. David Foster Wallace, a writer who was too post-something-or-other for my tastes, takes his own life and he's all over the front pages. James Crumley, on the other hand, well, you had too drill a long way down to even find out that he died, the other day, at only 68.

Crumley wrote what were, more or less, crime novels on acid. I can highly recommend "The Mexican Tree Duck" and "Bordersnakes" because I have read them. I'm sure his other Sughrue / Milodragovich novels are just as good. He may be gone, but his books can still be found. Read 'em.

YouTube of the day

Feist on Sesame Street. What's not to like?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The years of constant struggle

It's probably just that I'm still recovering - slowly - from this blasted virus. But I'm having a lot of "what is the point of it all" thoughts at the moment. I'm sure it will pass. Hang in there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Roaring Silence

Where have I been? Sick is where I've been. So sick that I had to take an entire week off work, and I didn't even enjoy it. Imagine that. Tuesday I wished I were dead. Wednesday night I wished I were dead. I still feel considerably below par. These are some of the things I thought about:

Music downloading, for me, has devalued the currency. The more I have available to listen to, the less I actually want to listen to.

I know practically nothing about parenting.

I have lived in Canberra for almost ten years now, most of which I have spent missing (a) Melbourne and (b) the farm I grew up on. As to the latter, it has long gone, and anyway what I need to remind myself is how things would have turned out if I had stayed there. And the answer to that is, it would have been very bad for me. And yet the haunting goes on. What I need to do, to put it bluntly, is Get Over It.

There are record covers that only really work at the size of a vinyl LP. Think of the first Ramones album; "Marquee Moon"; and "Horses". (All of which I have on vinyl.) If they had been released in the CD era I can't imagine them having become as iconic as they are. And there are covers that I wish I could have had on vinyl, but don't: Gerhard Richter's "Candle" paintings on "Daydream Nation"; Gregory Crewdson's photography on Yo La Tengo's "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out"; also the Gary Panter cover of the most recent YLT album, also notable for the Jim Woodring artifacts amongst the back cover detritus. I actually believe that in each of these cases the covers have a positive effect on the music inside. But I don't know how that would work.

I need to think less and do more. But that will never happen.

I need to listen to less and listen deeper. That might happen. But I will need to learn self-control first.

And finally:

The last time Geelong and Hawthorn met in a grand final it was one of the great grand finals and yet we missed the entirety of it on account of being at our friends' wedding in Ballarat. We have no intention of missing it this year.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

YouTube of the day

Neil Young playing "Down By The River". At Big Sur. (It looks like it's in somebody's back yard, actually.) Not by himself. Not with Crazy Horse. Surprise! It's CSNY. This, I promise you, is worth 6.5 minutes of your time. Dig those groovy hippie chicks.

(Link courtesy Aquarium Drunkard.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Don't Go To Sydney

We went to Sydney.

We had to get from our hotel, which overlooked Hyde Park, to the north side of the city. We asked three people, all in the tourism/hospitality industries, how to get there. We got three different answers. The first would have had us going the wrong way up a (fortunately clearly marked) one way street. The second was so vague and tentative that it wasn't even worth pursuing, although the person concerned seemed confident they were the right directions. The third would, according to our street directory, have had us knocking on the New South Wales Governor's front door. Ultimately I worked it out for myself.

What I like about Sydney is that you can walk into a record store (Birdland, in Pitt Street, to be precise) and ask for a copy of John Zorn's 50th Birthday Series Volume 11, the three-disc Bar Kokhba set, and - WHAMMO - there it is.

What I don't like about Sydney is:

1. Driving.

2. The fact that, everywhere I turn, I am reminded of how hopeless the task of saving the species from global warming really is. If you accept that carbon emissions are doing the damage, and that the bulk of those are being created by man (as opposed to by, say, cows farting, or peat bogs) then presumably a large part of that is the product of big cities. Sydney is a big city. It is fast. It burns a lot of energy. People on the whole don't appear to have the time (time is money) to conserve. Everyone is either on the mobile phone, drinking a takeaway coffee or one of those drinks that come in the long thin cans, or driving their oversized four-wheel drive (or all three at once). Heck, even the complementary breakfast at the hotel came with roughly one part packaging per one part food.

[As for that John Zorn CD, well, I thought I knew these songs - I have, in (ahem) one form or another, all of the official Masada-related releases except "Live In Jerusalem" and "Masada Rock", and a few unofficial live recordings as well - but I have never heard them quite like this before. This recording (which is so clear and immediate that you might as well be in the crowd) evidences a chamber ensemble (percussion, violin, cello, upright bass, drums, guitar) playing like a jazz combo. It has the same band > audience > band intensity loop as on the "Live At Tonic 2001" disc. It taunts you to try to sit still throughout, and you can't, you can't ...]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Song of the day

"Blue Sky Bends", by Wooden Shjips. That's right. "Shjips". Here is a band that neither could, nor necessarily should want to, distance themselves from Neil Young, and yet they seem to want to do this so strongly that they have adopted the following two-pronged approach: (1) to name themselves after a song from an album by Crosby, Stills, Nash and not Young; and (2) to adopt an aberrant spelling of that song's title. They are, however, forgiven (although "Shjips" is damned hard to type).

There's something about the sound of this band that I really, really love. They kind of float along on a soft haze of psychedelia, adding just the right amount of hinted-at malevolence to keep things interesting. What you get, really, is a cross between Opal's "Happy Nightmare Baby" and Spacemen 3's "Perfect Prescription", and if you were going to be looking for touchstones for a career in music you could do far, far worse than those two.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

YouTube of the day

This is a beautiful thing. It's hard to know how seriously to take it. It works either way. Enjoy.

(Thanks, as so often, to SFJ.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Filmworks Revisited

I am sitting in a café. The people to the left of me are talking about real estate. The people to the right of me are talking about salary sacrificing. I am thinking about John Zorn. It's an awkward fit: I feel like a couple of blasts from his saxophone would shake things up a little.

But for now we're still on the Filmworks series. To be precise, Vols XI to XIII. These three discs all came out in 2002, a seemingly busy year for Zorn, as there was also quite a lot of Masada activity happening. Another example of the "bleed" I was talking about earlier: "Filmworks XI: 2002 Volume One - Secret Lives", which might be considered the Rosetta Stone of the Filmworks series, is performed by the Masada String Trio, a group which, if you ask me, Zorn uses better than any other of the many combinations of musicians at his disposal (which, obviously, is not intended as a slight to any of the others). This is lovely, lovely music. It doesn't need a film to go with it. One of the themes reminds me, curiously, of "Nights In White Satin". At one point Jamie Saft wanders in with his piano and they fall into the most unlikely jazz group, in the style of Stéphane Grappelli, and it works brilliantly.

On the other hand, "Filmworks XII: 2002 Volume Two - Three Documentaries", a collection of tracks from three different soundtracks, doesn't quite hang together as an album in its own right. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with any of it - it starts off with a fascinating piece for human voice, an instrument Zorn doesn't use very often - but I can't quite get it to obtain traction when listened to from start to end. The middle section of it, admittedly, would make a good disc on its own, but even in the age of burn-your-own, it still doesn't feel right to do that sort of thing. This disc marks the return of the pipa (or "biwa"), and what Zorn does with it this time around is create what might be described as Ennio Morricone Goes To Old Beijing.

Much better, I think, as a single listening experience is "Filmworks XII: 2002 Volume Three - Invitation To A Suicide". Accordion makes a rare, but welcome, appearance, and Marc Ribot puts in a fine performance. In fact, there are places here where he sounds like he is reprising his work with Tom Waits. In a good way. (One piece might as well be, if heard from a distance, "Yesterday Is Here".) There is also a recurring theme that puts me in mind of "Astral Weeks", which is almost never a bad thing, and another one, for accordion, cello and vibraphone (or is it marimba?), that sounds like the kind of music you might hear in the background to a piece of investigative journalism on television (if television was still capable of showing investigative journalism). And it ends with a good old-fashioned Punk Rock three-chord thrash. All in all, one of my favourite Filmworks.

So here we are, two-thirds of the way through the series so far. My feeling, without having listened to very much of the volumes yet to be dealt with, is that we may have heard the best of them. Let's hope not.

Monday, September 01, 2008


It’s always nice to open the New Yorker and find that it contains a piece by David Sedaris. These days, he is one of the few writers anywhere who can cause me to laugh out loud in public places. Every so often, however, he comes up with a piece that, while funny, is also in some ways a horror story, so that the urge to laugh is suppressed, or laced with discomfort.

His recent piece about smoking was in the latter category. It also, to add to the horror aspect, reminded me of my own days as a cigarette smoker, short-lived and pathetic as they were. I would have been no more than 13 or 14 years old. How I was able to obtain cigarettes I have no idea. Most likely, it was through somebody’s older brother. I don’t remember ever smoking at home, or even having cigarettes anywhere near any place my parents might appear. The instigator of my smoking career was my friend Weary. We were at the age where we needed something to make us, at least in our own eyes, "cool". Because neither of us was particularly cool by nature. Sure, I hung around at the back of the portable classrooms with Kim Richter and Peter Condotta, talking about Bob Dylan and Monty Python, but they were the ones smoking, not me. (That is, if they were even smoking at all. I may have simply associated smoking so strongly with coolness that the two merged into one.)

Weary and I had conspired to ride our bikes to the football at Fish Creek, after which we would ride back to Weary’s parents’ house, on the Waratah road, and I would stay over for a night or two. We thus had bikes, and an adequate supply of fags. And mints. You had to have mints, because mints possessed the magical ability to mask any and all evidence of recent smoking. (Even then I had my doubts about whether this could possibly be true; but you had to believe.)

The football ground at Fish Creek must be one of the most picturesque venues in the country for watching a football game. It is nestled in a little valley at the back end of the town. Cars park around the ground and honk their horns when somebody kicks a goal. If someone kicked a goal with too much vigour at the northern end the ball would end up in the creek, thus delaying the re-start by a few minutes. You could do laps of the road around the ground with your mates, stopping off occasionally to buy a pie or a bag of mixed lollies from the kiosk.

But you couldn't, if you were Weary and me, smoke there, on account of you didn't know who was watching. Fish Creek is a small town. There might be spies about. We thus spent most of the match suppressing the idea that we would soon be puffing away in freedom. The bike ride was a slow affair, mainly because we spent most of it walking our bikes along the edge of the road, cigarette in one hand, bike in the other. (We soon discovered that it is impossible for a novice smoker to ride a bike and smoke at the same time.) We also had to stop every time we heard a car approaching, blow out any inhaled smoke, hide the cigarette, and wait for the car to pass. You never knew who might be driving past.

Weary had an older brother, Tony. (Tony shares the name of one of Miles Davis’s greatest drummers, but I suspect, even though he was, like all of the best older brothers,"into music", he may never have been aware of that fact.) Sleepovers at Weary’s house involved time in front of their colour television, time spent helping their dad working their sheep farm, time spent obsessing over Tony’s record collection and endeavouring to talk to Tony about same (difficult to do, because Tony for the most part saw us as annoying little kids), time spent playing world cup soccer in the back yard, and time spent at the disused dairy that sat over the hill from their house, out of view, and which had as its main attraction a kind of sleepout that came with its own supply of dirty magazines. These I assumed belonged to Tony, but, on reflection, they might just as well have belonged to their father.

And so we spent an afternoon smoking, learning the remarkable things that sheltered teenage boys could learn from dirty magazines, smoking, listening to the radio ("Sultans of Swing" I heard there and then for the first time, convinced both that it was the greatest song I had ever heard and that it was by Bob Dylan), and smoking.

That is, until we had built up, as teenage boys do, a superabundance of energy, which needed to be expended. So we started chasing each other around the milking shed, up and down the ramps and along the platforms where the cows, in days gone by, would have stood to be milked. It was all fun and games, as they say, until somebody lost an eye. Well, I didn’t exactly lose an eye, but I did hit the very top of my head against a steel beam, thanks to a very slight error of judgment, thus knocking me horizontal in the manner of Charlie Brown after Lucy pulls the football away from him just as he goes through the act of kicking. My head landed on the concrete with what might have been described as a sickening thud. I saw stars. (Did Charlie Brown see stars?) I may or may not have briefly passed out. When I looked up Weary and Tony were looking down at me with horrified expressions on their faces. We all learnt that head injuries tend to bleed heavily, making me look like a victim in a horror movie.

Two thoughts were foremost:

1. Get help.

2. Hide the cigarettes.

I wasn’t nearly as worried about almost killing myself as I was worried that Weary’s mum was about to learn that I had a secret life as a cigarette smoker. The mints were back at the house. There was no way of getting them to me before she arrived. I don’t have a great memory of what happened. I was probably suffering from concussion. At some point I was taken to Foster Hospital, where stitches were administered to the very top of my head (there may well be a scar there; we won’t know until my hair falls out, which it hasn’t yet). The sleepover was cut short. What I do remember is the sense of panic when Weary’s mum leaned over me and said, "You haven’t been smoking, have you?", looking at me in a way that suggested that she knew very well that I had been (well, you know, she really must have known) and that, perhaps, this might be a lesson for me on its own, without any need to tell my parents. "No", I ventured, unconvincingly. I vowed, in those moments, lying in a pool of my own blood, that I would never smoke again. And I haven’t.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

... and forget about everything

I reach once more into Darren’s MP3 lucky dip and pull out:

"Baker Street", by Gerry Rafferty, a song which immediately joins the list of the fifty most important songs in my life. (What are we up to now, eight? I have in fact added one or two more, and shall provide an updated list in due course.) "Baker Street" stood out for not being anything like the songs I was listening to then: it was quiet, contemplative, melancholy (an emotion that has tremendous pull for me now, but that I didn’t then know or understand). For that reason I was always a little bit uncomfortable with the way it made me feel. I was afraid that I was being sucked into liking something that really belonged in the Enemy Camp. Now, of course, I know that there is no Enemy Camp (and I must acknowledge Darren as a source of that realisation, along with Adrienne). This is simply one of the great pop songs: like so many others that have stood the test of time, its strength, I think, is that it stands to one side of what was happening at the time (or, even, at any other time: cf "Wuthering Heights", perhaps, or "O Superman").

I haven’t quite put this as well as I would have liked; I suspect that I have made it sound like a Guilty Pleasure, but it’s not that at all, it is something that runs much, much deeper than one of those.

It also happens to have the bitchin’est guitar solo.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mash-up of the mind

When I woke up this morning my brain was trying to squash together two songs I haven't heard for some time (in one case, mercifully), Dione Warwick's "Don't Make Me Over" (actually in my head it was Dusty Springfield, but I don't think she ever recorded this song, even though you could argue it was made for her) and "Isn't It Time", by The Babys. Someone with technology could, I suppose, see if that actually works, but I don't know why you would.

What is wrong with me?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why I like Beach House

Watch this. (Full screen is best.) I'm not sure that a better song than "Gila" has been released this year. Some days I listen to nothing else.

(When you are done watching "Gila", click through to see them performing "Apple Orchard", their other Song For The Ages. And not that many bands have two of those.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heroes of the day


"Typo vigilantes". Two words that you would never have put together but which are in fact a perfect fit. Good luck to them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Song of the day

"En Particulier", by Blonde Redhead. Lovely song, this. Conjures the spirit of Young Marble Giants effortlessly, if a touch busier, and rolls along on a rhythm that is seemiingly the reverse of what it should be, just to keep you on (or off) your toes. I thought the Blonde Redhead of olden times were meant to be noisy f*ckers, but you can't tell that from here. (Did I ever mention that "23" is one of the great undersung albums of the last couple of years? It's got melody oozing from every pore.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Song of the day

"Wrap Your Legs (Around Your Head)" by Allez Allez. The key words here are "produced by Martin Ware for BEF". This is a perfectly wrought slab of disjointed funk from 1982 and as such it will never go out of style.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Song of the day

"Hold Tight", by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. "They" don't make them like this any more. Maybe "they" should.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Song of the day

"Two Silver Trees", by Calexico. I feel bad about not really liking the last Calexico album, "Garden Ruin". I can't even say why I didn't like it. I just didn't. But, on the strength of this song, from their forthcoming new LP, redemption is at hand. It may not be entirely coincidental that what it reminds me of, even more so than earlier Calexico records, is "The Shepherd's Dog", by Iron & Wine. This suggests that Sam Beam is responsible not only for coming out with one of the most surprising and unexpected records of recent years ("The Shepherd's Dog", which, yes, is not entirely uninhabited by members of Calexico) but also for Calexico, like the tuatara, getting its mojo back.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Danger In The Past

Time for number six in the possibly never-ending story of Darren’s List.

Darren has the uncanny ability to know better than I do exactly which song I need to hear. “Goodbye”, by Mary Hopkin, is one such song. In fact Mary Hopkin I was aware of only vaguely, in name only. Or so I thought, until about 15 seconds into this song when, Wham, I was transported immediately back to the start of the 1970s, when I was a small boy, playing with my limited selection of Matchbox cars and Lego on the lounge room floor, transforming the checked rug in front of the couch into some kind of elaborate cityscape. Dad was either out fixing fencing wires that had been run through by kangaroos or playing lawn bowls somewhere, mum was performing whatever unacknowledged miracles the mothers of small boys perform in the kitchen, and this song, as often as not, or so it seemed, was on the radio. And I hadn’t heard it since.

The wonder of being transported back to another time and place, though, is only shortlived. I tried to listen to it again just now and all that happened was I was listening to a song. A very nice song, yes, but not, as such, A Piece Of My Life.

I had a similar experience to this a little while ago when Adrienne brought home a bottle of A2 milk. Milk these days is produced, primarily by large black-and-white cows called Frisians, for volume. It is a pale and pathetic version of the milk I grew up with. We had Jerseys, lovely pale-brown cows with big eyes, who gave not so much milk but what they gave was rich and creamy. Not many farmers produce this milk any more (curse you, The Heart Foundation). Everybody wants to be lean and mean. So it is many years since I have tasted “real” milk. But some studies have shown that people are missing out on some of the goodness that used to be in milk, and A2 milk has been “invented” to fill that gap. Anyway, Adrienne made a batch of pikelets using this bottle of A2 milk. And on the first bite, Ker-pow!, I was back at the farm. But, like Mary Hopkin, with the second bite it was just a pikelet.

Perhaps in 20 years time we will try the A2 pikelet experiment again. But I think I will be listening to “Goodbye” many times before then.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fixing A Hole

I discovered this morning that, when you are alone in your car, driving along, minding nobody's business but your own, you can passably sing Lou Reed's "Satellite Of Love", or at least the verses, to the tune of "The Big Country", by Talking Heads. Not so surprising, I suppose, given the relative temporal and locative [you've just been reading William Gibson's latest novel, haven't you? - ed.] proximity of the two songs. It may have just been a zeitgeist thing. The more surprising thing was that "Satellite Of Love" was lurking around in the deep corners of my mind, given my deep-seated aversion to all things Lou Reed post-Velvets. Hmmm. I wonder what else is living up there.

Anyway, this got me to thinking, have David Byrne and Lou Reed ever actually worked together? They live in the same city, and are roughly the same vintage, and David Byrne strikes me as a Laurie Anderson kind of guy (Reed also being, in a different sense, Laurie Anderson's kind of guy), they must at least have crossed paths. But as I was sitting in my car, minding my business, nothing came to mind. There can only be at the most two degrees of separation between them (Reed > Cale > Eno > Byrne), and I suspect this could be further reduced. (Is Arthur Russell another possibility?)

And this, somewhat abstractedly, got me to thinking, if someone at your work is called Nicolette Carson (fact!), how can you train yourself not to think of her as Nicolette Larson and start singing "Lotta Love" to yourself (internally) when in her presence. And this got me to thinking, I should probably go and get some work done.

Song of the day

"By The Sea", by Wendy and Bonnie. On what planet is this not a lost Marine Girls record? Everything is present and correct, from the aquatic imagery to the starkness of the accompaniment, and that voice bears a remarkable similarity to that of a young Tracy Thorn. And yet it isn't the Marine Girls; it's Wendy and Bonnie, from their 1969 (and only?) album "Genesis". Elsewhere they sound not unlike "Light My Fire" as done by The Free Design. Which is also not a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Song of the day

"New Feeling", by Talking Heads. Specifically, the version that appears at the very beginning of the double live album (now CD) "The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads". I like the way David Byrne's introductory words, "The name of this song is 'New Feeling' and that's what it's about", neatly sums up his tangled relationship with whimsy and irony. (It doesn't always work for everybody: I found "True Stories" nothing more than a steaming pile of unpleasantness.) There is also something endearing about the slightly unhinged way he sings "I feel like sitting down".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Song of the day

"Cry For A Shadow", by Beat Happening.

There are certain bands and musicians whose records are so much of a piece that, no matter how good the other records are, you find yourself always coming back to the one you first heard. Aimee Mann is an example: everything she does is good, but her particular brand of stylish misanthropy is only really digestible in small doses, and I will always like "Bachelor No 2" the best. Ron Sexsmith: whenever I hear something new by him I just want to listen to "Other Songs". Matthew Sweet (tho in his case the first album I listened to all the way through happened to be a "best of" collection: unfair).

Beat Happening? The problem (not actually a problem) with Beat Happening is that theirs is such a narrow and perfect template that a certain sameness is inevitable. Which means that I can happily listen to any Beat Happening album, but at some point around "Black Candy" I kind of drifted off. But then they surprised everybody a few years later with the triumphant left-turn of "You Turn Me On". Wedged in between those two points was "Dreamy", a record I didn't actually realise I hadn't heard until I had a chance to hear it recently. Of course it's good. It may in fact show that "You Turn Me On" was not quite the dramatic change of tack I had previously taken it to be. And of course like many people (!) I came to "Cry For A Shadow" via the supremely gorgeous version by The Shapiros. Hearing it done by Beat Happening, though, naturally was a quiet thrill. (I think I still prefer The Shapiros' version.)

Listening to Calvin Johnson's voice through headphones is slightly painful: Beat Happening CDs should carry a health warning.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Song of the day

"Skipping", by The Associates. In which music is transported up to the heavens, never to return (with Billy MacKenzie, sadly, to follow).

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Public service announcement

I don't know who you are, but I know you're out there. I don't care if you keep everything else, but please, please, GIVE MIKE WATT BACK HIS BASS. He needs it so much more than you do.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Song of the day

"Strange Overtones", by David Byrne and Brian Eno. No matter the quality of the song, this has to be today's Song Of The Day. Twenty-seven years after "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts", which on many days would be named by me as the Greatest Album Of All Time, the two distinguished gentlemen offer us all this song, free (gotta love that Internet).

Its not being a return to "Bush Of Ghosts" country reflects the fact that they are both marching into fogeyhood, but also that they are doing so with style and grace. This song has been on a loop for much of the afternoon, and I have to say that I would at this early stage be happy to have it on a permanent IV drip straight into my brain. It isn't likely to set any hipster's world on fire, but what do hipsters know anyway, right?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Song of the day

"Lonely Hearts", by Joakim. A perfect radio song for these post-radio days. It has a good beat, a classy hook, the right amount of repetition of said classy hook, and a hint of the anthemic. It possibly goes on a bit, but who am I to cast that stone?

Monday, August 04, 2008


There are two performances which I distinctly remember from my days of watching "Countdown" on the ABC in the late seventies and/or early eighties which infrequently but persistently come back to mind. They are: a song which may or may not have been called "Three Minute Egg", by someone who may or may not have been called Euan Thorburn, which If I Remember Correctly involved one person screaming into the camera for, let's say, three minutes. The other was a song which may or may not have been called "I Like Electric Motors", the artist's name lost in the mists of time. It was in an electronic-music vein, which suggests post-Tubeway Army vintage. The title of the song (if such it is) was repeated many times, and then it ended. Or maybe that one was by Euan Thorburn. Maybe they both were. Or maybe it is all a figment of my imagination. Help!

Song of the day

"Call Me Superbad (Cornelius Rework)", by Mr James Brown. Cornelius is a clever guy. His "Ball In - Kick Off" is a favourite amongst the under-tens at our house (now a category of one, sigh). In today's song, he takes on the Godfather of Soul, Hardest Working [adjectival hyphen optional; works both ways - ed] Man In Show Business. And lives to tell the tale.

I would not normally endorse messing about with a stone classic. James Brown should be allowed to do his thang unadorned, unhampered, unhacked (and, preferably, unhinged). So this probably shouldn't work for me. Why it does I have no idea. I quite like the way he decontextualises Brown, making him come across, implausibly, a bit like Mark E Smith ranting over an irrelevant (but independently listenable) backing track. But then the horns creep back in, subtly and in fragments, tying the two strands at least slightly together. It's not going to set the world on fire, and JB would most likely have hated it, but I am finding it oddly compelling.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wikipedia random article of the day

This is the type of thing that, from an outsider's perspective, makes England England.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Richard McGuire clip of the day

As y'all well know, we are big fans of Richard McGuire. Thanks to SFJ for providing this link. It's a bit creepy, but be brave, and tell yourself it's only pen and ink, or the digital equivalent thereof. (Edit: the SFJ link itself contains some more Richard McGuire, AND will, if clicked in the right places, take you to more, even, than that. Oh happy day.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Song of the day

"Toy Balloons", by Perrey and Kingsley. I so want to use this as my ringtone. But that would be, like, way beyond my level of competence. Help me somebody!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Song of the day

"The Carrier", by David Byrne and Brian Eno. Because it is at once so otherworldly and so beautiful.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Song of the day

"Hold On To Your Dreams", by Jah Wobble / The Edge / Holger Czukay. We have to be careful how much U2 we allow into the house, in case they take us over like the evil and sinister virus they are. But the appearance of The Edge on this track is more than outweighed by its having lyrics by Arthur Russell (you never know where he is going to pop up - and it is interesting (to me) that his appearance on this record means that Arthur Russell was in the house 20 years before I had previously thought; and there I was thinking that I was able to retain record-cover information better than most people (I have little Pete Frame-style diagrams running around inside my head like crazy paving)) and drums by Jaki Liebezeit, the Number Three of rock-n-roll drummers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Misheard (or not?) lyric of the day

From Iggy and The Stooges, "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell": is it possible that Iggy really says "I needed love, but I only lost my pants"?

Presumed coincidence of the day

Has anybody else noticed a similarity between the neew album by Paavoharju, "Laulu Laakson Kukista", and Virginia Astley's "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure"? Just wondering.

Song of the day

"Nightporter", by Japan. For reasons that I don't really understand, I have been on a real Japan kick the last couple of days. Not the early glam-punk years, which have never meant anything to me at all (although my first memory of Japan was seeing them on "Countdown", in all their, ahem, "splendour", doing "Don't Rain On My Parade"), but the two final, essential albums, "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" and "Tin Drum". Two albums may not be much to make a reputation on, but then we only had two albums from Joy Division, and that was both enough and, in all speculative likelihood, the ideal number. Anyway. These two are as important to me as any other record in my collection; listening to them today it is particularly striking how they come across as the definitive sound of the early 1980s. The perfectly clean but(presumably) still analog synths, the FXed drums, the fretless bass, the slightly effected piano and airy synth combination that can be found on "Nightporter".

I have always loved "Nightporter". Perhaps not so much that it will eventually appear in my all time top 50 songs (c.f. "Ghosts", which stands a good chance, but isn't there yet), but quite deeply nevertheless. Its seeming ease in handling complex emotions might well have lit the path that David Sylvian was later to tread, to frequently sublime effect, in his solo career.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Song of the day

"Ultimate Warlord", by The Immortals. This song, which appears to be the only record The Immortals ever made, also seems to be a cover, credited to someone with the unlikely name of "Daniel Boone", who also released it as a single, under the moniker The Warlord, in the same year, 1979. Or maybe Mr Daniel Boone was behind both entities. I think we should be told.

The ten-year-old likes this because he can act out a Transformers-inspired musical-theatre piece over the length of its nine minutes. I like it because it's an intriguing slice of science-fiction disco which comes across as an amalgam of "Woman", by Mirage, and "I Was Made For Loving You", by Kiss. You can't invent something like that.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Why did Nelson Mandela choose to have a private party for his 90th birthday?

Answer: It was the only way he could keep Bono out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Who put the bomp?

Spurred into action by a certain friend of mine, who has divided his life into a list of the 50 most important songs therein, and by the way he still hasn't sent me that list, I have determined to do likewise. It is a difficult task, one that necessitates the songs coming to me, rather than me thinking them out. Thus, to date the list is somewhat short (it is also in no particular order, although the song that appears first does so for many very good reasons):

The Chills, "Pink Frost".
The Go-Betweens, "Cattle and Cain".
Television, "Marquee Moon".
Propaganda, "Dr Mabuse". (Ah, but which version?)
Donna Summer, "I Feel Love" (12 inch).
The Passions, "I'm In Love With A German Film Star".
Brian Eno, "1/1".

Stay tuned for additions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Song of the day

"One Day", by The Cannanes. It's funny what can pop into your head. The album on which this little number is something of an afterthought, "The African Man's Tomato" (aka "Lord Nelson's Seafood Capers"), is one of the unsung Australian rock masterpieces. Ask any of the twenty people who own a copy. It changed my life. (And I don't say that lightly, no I don't.)

The Cannanes, bless their cotton socks, are still at it, too. Not that you'd know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


1. I appear to have come across as somewhat negative when writing recently about John Zorn's "Filmworks X". I must have been having a bad day. It's not like that at all.

2. Just as there are perfect Monday-morning-wake-up-call songs, there are perfect darkening-late-Tuesday-midwinter-afternoon songs, of which "Zaz Turned Blue", by Was (Not Was), must be one. The song, which is, if I understand it correctly, a sad tale of the unintended consequences of a bit of sexual experimentation in the park, is a triumph of vocal delivery by Mel Torme. He sings it so straight that the listener is put in a position of utter discomfort, not knowing whether to laugh or cry: was the Velvet Fog in on the "joke", or completely oblivious? (Everything about Was (Not Was), from their name onwards, is at some level a joke, at another level not a joke. Why does everything have to be so hard?) Also worth noting is how Torme morphs, early in the line "What were we supposed to do?", from Frank Sinatra into Scott Walker.

3. Next up in our continuing series entitled "This Goes With This", sub-category "Strange Bedfellows": "Love To Know", by The Marine Girls, and the seventh track on my CD version of The Minutemen's "Double Nickels On The Dime". (The disparity between the tracks listed on the cover of "Nickels" and the actual tracks on the CD is one of the many things in life that I have never understood. I am somewhat relieved to see that the three listings for this album on Discogs give three different sets of numbers.) If you listen to these two songs back-to-back you will know almost instantly whether you have the right Minutemen song. Were The Minutemen fans of The Marine Girls? Given what we know about Kurt Cobain's unexpected listening habits, it cannot be ruled out as a possibility.

4. One night last week Adrienne and I were given a get-out-of-jail-free card. We used it to go to the movies: to be precise, "Happy Go Lucky", the latest Mike Leigh joint. With Mike Leigh one is rarely disappointed, and this one is perhaps up there with his best. We are so conditioned these days to expect the unexpected that it is a relief to be able to watch a movie in which, when the main character is filmed tidying up the children's papers, she is not going to find, say, a hidden crack pipe or Weapon of Mass Destruction, she is simply tidying up the children's papers. (Also: why is it that, even though I spent the first 17 years of my life, and many long stretches thereafter, on the family farm, and have spent a grant total of about a week in London, I realise, whenever I watch a film like this, that I miss London as much as I miss the farm (and I miss the farm a lot)?)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Song of the day

"Papal Visit", by The Fall. The Pope is less than two hundred miles away, and yet strangely I don't feel any different. Is he losing his power?

(Actually, "Papal Visit" is the one unarguably dispensable item in The Fall canon. But, sitting as it does at the very end of the "Room To Live" mini-album (remember those?), which is otherwise prime Fall, its severance does no real damage. In the dim, distant and ever-receding past, I considered calling my radio show "Solicitor In Studio", but rejected it as too obvious.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Song of the day

"True Faith", by New Order. There must be a million songs that act like a musical caffeine hit, helping to shake off the cobwebs on a bleary Monday morning. "True Faith" is the one that worked this morning.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Filmworks Continue

I have been listening to death (perhaps unavoidably) "Filmworks X - In The Mirror Of Maya Deren", John Zorn's soundtrack to a movie about a "voodoo priestess" (I've never met one of those before). It is a very slight thing, this soundtrack, perhaps deceptively so; rather difficult to get to grips with in fact: you put it on, you immediately warm to it, half an hour later you realise it's still playing, and then it's gone. Was it ever there at all? Is that the voodoo talking?

The elements are in almost perfect alignment: Erik Friedlander on cello, Jamie Saft on keyboards, some spooky percussive elements floating around in the atmosphere (some by Zorn himself, who also acquits himself passably on piano on a couple of tracks - well, if Nick Cave can assail us with electric guitar on record mere weeks (I could be exaggerating here, but I suspect not by much) after first picking one up ...), a couple of beautifully lyrical themes creeping in and out of proceedings. But somehow as a stand-alone prospect this disc is an ever-so-slight disappointment coming after the heroics of vols VII to IX. (Although I see myself returning to it regularly: it suits a particular mood, of, what, gentle melancholia? Which is a not uncommon state for me.)

But never fear. In the way of things Zorn the following year, 2002, saw the release of not one but three further Filmworks: it is to those that we turn next.

Song of the day

"St Andrew (This Battle Is In The Air)", by The White Stripes. Not so much a "Who is this?" moment as a "Seriously WTF???" moment. Yes, it is Jack and Meg. At least, according to the credits it is. But there's not much to go on in making that identification with this decidedly wonky Irish jig, spliced with a punk rock aesthetic (in a nice way). "Cool."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Song of the day

"Minimoonstar (Shackleton Remix)", by Ricardo Villalobos. In which Mr Shackleton returns the favour for Villalobos having turned "Blood On My Hands" into the most ominous "memorial" to the events September 11, 2001 you could imagine: a kind of sonic equivalent to Don DeLillo's "Falling Man". This time around, Shackleton brings to RV's painstakingly constructed and unprecedented beats a sense of otherworldliness, a music that you might describe as dub-ambient-techno as long as you didn't associate that with Bill Laswell's "illbient" projects.

The other good thing about this song is that you can use it as the basis for several anagrams containing the word "Moomin" (and don't forget that Drawn and Quarterly's third instalment of the collected Moomin comic strips is due out in two short months; our order has been placed).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The People on the Bus

The guy sitting kind of diagonally opposite me is reading something by H P Lovecraft. I wonder if he has read Alan Moore's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier", which includes a section that is essentially a P G Wodehouse story written in the style of Lovecraft. It is, unsurprisingly, very well done, and very clever. As for Lovecraft himself: nah; he is way too overblown and turgid, if you ask me, for his stories ever to creep out from the dense thickets of his language.

The woman right in front of me is not far into David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas", which I have written about before. I hope she gets further into it than I was ever able to. The novel he wrote next, "Black Swan Green", awaits me in the local library, as soon as I get through William Gibson's "Spook Country", which I am having to tear through in the expectation that some other bugger will have reserved it.

The woman in front of her is reading John Birmingham's "He Died With A Felafel In His Hand", a novel that I can thoroughly recommend, about the shared-household experience, growing up, a mysterious death, and bucket bongs. The movie is good, too, something I don't often say about Australian movies. Adrienne is currently reading the sequel, "The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco", which she gave me a couple of birthdays ago and, true to form, is reading first.

You might think that the quality of reading material is unusually high for public transport. And you may well be right. But perhaps it says something about the nature of Canberra. Or else it was just a fluke.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Oh no, he's at it again

The headline in Saturday's Age was one I have been wanting to see for a very long time: "Act now or face disaster". The subject: climate change. As you all know all too well, I have been, to put it bluntly, scared shitless for three years now by what appears to me to be the bleak future for human life on this planet, and every day of inaction, at least as it seems to me, puts the day of reckoning one day closer. I have always been a pessimist by nature, but the way my mind is working at the moment, if the glass was more half-empty it would be as bone dry as the Murray Darling basin. (At the recent "Triumph of Landscape" exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia one of the standout Australian paintings was called something like "Floodwaters on the Darling River": a painting that isn't all that old (late 19th Century?) but feels like something out of ancient history.)

One thing I don't know is, has the rest of the world caught up to where I was three years ago? Or have things actually started to look worse even than that?

What I do hope is that the release, finally, of the Garnaut Report, and the attendant media avalanche, will go some way towards galvanising people's thinking: that this is an actual crisis we are facing (if not entering now). The time to act has to be now. The worst thing that could happen is that industry lobby groups, States'-rights advocates, and independent Senators derail the process by way of a thousand concessions. Already the signs are not good in this regard. But the government surely knows that it has to stand firm this time. Doesn't it?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Old fogeys at play

Wouldn't I have loved to have been teleported to Maxwell's, in Hoboken NJ, two nights ago for the the return of The Feelies?

Failing that, you can read about it here. (The article includes a photo in which they just look like dudes, playin'. How cool is that?) "A garage band reimagined by mathematicians" is not a bad descriptor of The Feelies, a band that have been very close to my heart for the best part of 30 years now. Theirs is an ageless, and timeless, sound; that they can walk back into the limelight after 17 years and give the impression they have never been away, or that the last 17 years never happened, is no real surprise. A thrill, yes, but not a surprise.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Topical songs

And the news items to which they relate.

Note: bad taste alert.

1. "Jimmy Stynes", by My Friend The Chocolate Cake. Here.

2. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", by The Pink Floyd. Here.

Sorry. The second of these is a truly terrible story; I shudder to think of it taking place.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Things I Want To Say About "Kung Fu Panda"

1. I struggled to make the connection between Jack Black's voice and the panda. To me, something didn't gel.

2. That opening dream sequence couldn't have been made without the pioneering work of the Supreme Being of Animation, Genndy Tartakovsky. Who, unless I missed it, wasn't acknowledged at all in the film.

3. Jackie Chan.

4. It's not Pixar, but otherwise "Kung Fu Panda" compares very favourably to most recent children's animated films I have seen; it's a field that has suffered from overcrowding and consequent loss of quality control of late.